Large Problems

January 27th, 2021

Dear Readers, 

The title of this blog makes me chuckle…our whole house is one large problem. And the reason we are trying to build it, is to solve environmental and social problems. We are facing a problem, so to conquer another problem. Problems, problems, problems. The funny thing about it, is that the more William and I say the word “problem” to one another, the less it sounds like an actual word, and more like something that is just there. And we need to have fun navigating it. 

Ready? Try it with me: Problem. Problem. Problem. Problem. Problem. Problem. Problem. Problem. 

And now that you have thoroughly realized that you have wasted your time repeating something that initially invokes large amounts of stress…and in reality, it is just a ‘problem,’ we take a deeeeeeeeepppppp breattthhhhh….

….and we move forward. 

So! What are William and I’s problems? More specifically, what are the large problems we need to solve before we begin to build The Seed? Well, large problems that don’t include funding…that’s a whole other problem on its own. 

1.) We need to figure out the relationship between the Hydraloop and the Clivus Multurm(s). The Hydraloop is a way to filter the water that comes from our shower, bathroom sinks, and clothes’ washing machine, and reuse that water for our Clivus Multrum foam flush toilets (which really only use 6 oz. of water per flush), our clothes’ washing machine (a loop system exists here), and our garden. However, William and I want to find out if our dishwasher and kitchen sink drainage could go into the Hydraloop if we had a grease trap. We also want to find out if the Clivus Multrum would accept the Hydraloop sludge left over from the filtration and discharge process. If that IS the case, then we COULD TREAT ALL OF OUR WASTEWATER ON-SITE! Which would be AWESOME! And help us meet the Water Petal for the Living Building Challenge. However, all of that awesomeness is still dependent upon the result of our second conundrum….

2.) We need to work with our local code officials to see if there is a way that our on-site wastewater treatment plan could be approved. This one will be fun!

3.) How can we make our house more efficient with water usage? Even with the Hydraloop, maybe even the Orbital Shower, and the Clivus Multrum toilets, we still face the dilemma that our roof (rain catchment area) and the precipitation we actually get per year, are too small to meet all of the water needs of a family of five. William has come up with a really clever potential solution…by making our shower into a sauna. His thought was that if we could make the shower warm and comfy even with the shower head turned off, us inhabitants would be ok with just turning on the water to initially get ourselves wet, and then once more to rinse off. If this idea seems to be working out…I’ll write a blog about it!

4.) Again, regarding our water reliance: How are we going to continue collecting rainwater (snow!) in the winter? Keep snow on the roof long enough for it to melt into our gutters? Keep gutters and downspout heated? Heated roof???

5.) Then, that leads to the rainwater pillow itself, and the additional greywater pillow we are going to need for our Hydraloop system. Can we keep these pillows enclosed in our house and elevated on pins? If they, and the wizy downspouts, can be enclosed in the home’s envelope, that would solve some of the conundrums associated with rainwater collection in the winter, as well as making the home itself more suitable for prefabrication and eventual transportation. 

6.) Determining the pins and their load capacity is another problem. We need to do a soil test to determine if our site’s soil would require helical piles over a pin foundation. From there, we would figure out the load the pins/piles are capable of and their positions. That will help us decide if we can keep two 3,000 gallon rainwater/greywater pillows inside our house. One 3,000 gallon pillow full of water weighs approximately 25,000 pounds, by the way. 

7.) Figure out sun exposure and what our energy generating capacity really is. This will require us going to our site, mapping out our floor plan (what sun exposure each room will have as well for passive solar design), and predicting our overall energy usage in the home. If the sun itself does not look like it can make us net-positive, then what other energy generating options do we have? Wind turbine? Hydrogen fuel cells? 

8.) We need to find Passive House (PHI or PHIUS) certified windows and doors that are not all located in Europe. Made in the U.S. is obviously preferable! And closer to the Land of the Laurels, the better! Less of an overall carbon footprint. 

9.) The Clivus Multrum tank conundrumShould we get one Australian Clivus Multrum (the tank is shorter and we would not have to dig in order to comfortably fit it under our home) or do we get two U.S. Clivus Multrums (which are really tall and would require digging…but they are U.S. made and therefore have a much smaller carbon footprint)? 

10.) Getting CLT panels to the site on our barely passable road…and a crane to put the CLT in place. William actually may have this one figured out already, but we still need to navigate the details in making this happen. 


William and just a few problems

There you have it! Our problems. While only ten are officially mentioned, this list does get longer and sometimes shorter any given day. We felt as if it was our duty however, to mention to you, all of our dear readers, an update on our progress and problems. You know, like talking to a shrink. Just you guys listening to all of our problems makes our problems seem just a teensy weensy bit smaller 😉 

That’s all for now! Thanks for being there, guys!

Shelby Aldrich


  1. So many people will benefit from you all sharing your problems & their solutions! Keep at it!

    • Thanks Aunt Deanna! haha and we certainly hope so!! The more people building crazy sustainable homes, the better~ it will pave the way for future sustainable building enthusiasts down the road 🙂

      • Hey man very creative thoughts and possible remedies you two are coming up with. I’ve been around building and construction most of life. I at one time while working for my dad was doing the excavation and site prep for a few environmentally friendly green home projects. I was young and then worked for the builder as a laborer. Got some ideas from the past jobs and a a bunch of possibly useful ideas. I’ve had many diff thoughts ranging from harvesting water from natural springs for either consumption or possibly energy source,the composting toilets that don’t need water, foam blocks filled with concrete I seen used. One day my goal is totally off the grid home. Shoot me a message on fb or text me 2232372008
        Looking forward to hearing from you and seeing how you over come the challenges.

    • OMG, I am glad you are young I would have given up. But then, if everything went perfect, what fun would that be. I have faith in both of you to figure it all out!

      • Thank you, Aunt Rose!! <3 This is most certainly turning into quite the adventure 🙂

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© 2020 Sustaining Tree